Archive for the January Category


Everyone knows that I am not a man of great wealth.  The fact that I worked for 43 years for AT&T will tell you that I am not a man of considerable means.  But nonetheless I smoked cigarettes for 16 years, starting at age 16.  Finally I quit smoking cigarettes or, as my father put it, sucking cigarettes at age 32 in 1954.

It used to be that the cigarette companies had us all conned.  Every night, for 15 minutes we would listen to Fred Waring and his wonderful choir of Pennsylvanians.  Fred Waring’s program was sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes.  It was a case of the tobacco manufacturers of cigarettes trying to persuade us that they were benevolent fellows.

I was smoking at the time I joined the American Army and continued for quite a while thereafter.  During the Second World War, it is my recollection that at the PXs where soldiers bought their cigarettes, the cost was five cents a pack.  I’ll repeat: five cents a pack.  That low cost almost made it imperative that there was nothing to do but smoke a cigarette.

When the American troops reached Paris, it was widely reported – including the reports of Ernie Pyle – that they were identified as Americans because they were smoking Camel cigarettes.  On a soldier’s pay these days, it would be very difficult to sustain a modest smoking habit.

Here is the cost of cigarettes these days.  In New York, a package of cigarettes will cost you $12.50.  In New Jersey, the price is $8 per package.  In Illinois, the cost is $10.25, in Hawaii $9.73.  In Missouri, my home state, the cost of a package of cigarettes is $5.89.  At the bottom of the scale, there is West Virginia, which is $4.84.  Remember, these are the prices of one package of cigarettes – not a carton – just one package of cigarettes.  (Source: Nic Turiciano, Price of cigarettes by state, 2012)

In New York, where the price of a pack is $12.50, the cost of a single cigarette is 53 cents.  In New York, a carton of cigarettes would be $125.  So you can see why cigarette vendors keep their supplies locked up when customers appear.

Based on the foregoing prices, it would seem to me that only wealthy people could consume cigarettes.  The cost increase from World War II, for example, comes about because of increased taxation with the plain attempt to make the cost so excessive that people would stop using them.

I have not consumed cigarettes since 1954 so I had gotten out of date on what they might cost.  In 1951, I was part of a five-member bargaining team to deal with AT&T Long Lines on a new contract for its employees.  Even at AT&T, one of the most conservative companies, the people who made up the meeting room always left a few cigars and two or three packages of cigarettes.  There was an occasion when Vernon Bagnell, the Vice President of Personnel, cursed himself because he was indulging in “this filthy habit.”  If I had had the guts to do it, I would have challenged Mr. Bagnell for the two of us to stop smoking on that occasion.  But I did not do it.

At the time that people smoked, there were all kinds of accessories that made it easy to accommodate them.  For example, there was an ashtray which I received as a gift from the Swedish government that probably weighed somewhere between four and five pounds.  It was a beautiful sort of sculpture.  When I quit smoking, it went for naught.

During the years of my smoking, there were all kinds of accompaniments.  For example, the single best lighter in the whole world was the Zippo.  Zippos could be bought at the PX for about a dollar or a dollar and a half.  On the other end of the scale, there were lighters made by Ronson which were elegant.  They probably cost eight to ten dollars.  I recall one that had a cigarette lighter at the top and in the middle it opened up to conceal eight or ten cigarettes on the left-hand side and eight or ten on the right-hand side.  It made an elegant showpiece but in point of fact the cigarettes were removed from the original package and tended to lose freshness by the end of smoking the cigarette case.  The result would be harshness coming from stale cigarettes.

It appears now at age 90 that I must have escaped lung cancer, which is the bane of cigarette smoking.  As I said, I quit in 1954 but during the years when I smoked, there were plenty of burns on furniture and tablecloths and I do not ever wish to go back to that time.

There is one aspect of cigarettes having to do with advertising.  Every restaurant, for example, had its own match cover.  There were even those who collected match covers.  For a long while as my career at AT&T came to an end, I used to always take a match cover so I could remember the name of the restaurant and how much I was charged so that I could enter it on my expense account.  As you might imagine, I always brought home a collection of such match covers.  When I had saved a large number of match covers, I offered them to one of my grandsons who was then about 15 or 16 years old.  His mother intervened on the ground that the grandson might set fire to the whole house.  This would be self-defeating, for if the fire consumed the house, it would also consume the match covers.

I do not wish to make light of smoking.  Too many friends of mine in the end battled lung cancer.  It is a dreadful disease.  But in my own case, it appears that my quitting smoking in 1954 saved me from that ailment.

Now as for Vernon Bagnell, the Vice President of AT&T, he was the most dreadfully dull person I have ever known.  Bagnell had kept on smoking and in about 1957 he ran for a commuter train and suffered a heart attack.  But I always go easy on Vernon Bagnell because he is the guy who promoted me from a member of the union bargaining team to a management position.  Granted that the management position was about as low as one could get, but it was a management position nonetheless.  I regret that Vernon Bagnell was a casualty of heavy smoking.

But as the title suggests in this essay, it would take a man with much greater means than most of us have to keep on smoking at the rates published herein.  If I were a woman in search of a husband, I might look for a man with cigarette stains on his fingers and who has nicotine on his breath.  Such a man, once married, would probably not last very long, I believe.  The prospective bride might have to nurse him through his illness that would soon follow.  You must know that to smoke at the rates that are charged these days, one must be very affluent.  If rich widowhood is in her plans, this may be the thing to do.

Now at this rate I believe that I have told you all there is to say with respect to smoking.  I have been free of cigarettes for a good bit more than 50 years.  And I would not ever consider lighting up a cigarette.


There is one more consideration that now comes to mind.  There was a woman named Rita Snedicker who was the secretary to my boss.  On the day that I announced that I was no longer a smoker, Rita Snedicker  said it was her bed-rock belief that within a day or two I would be back smoking again.  That was in 1954.  Rita had all of the earmarks of a veteran smoker.  Her skin was wrinkled.  I had no inclination to cuddle up with old Rita.  But in point of fact, she disappeared from the scene and I can report that I no longer suck cigarettes, as my father said.

There are those of you who may recall an incident over the past four or five years when Mayor Bloomberg of New York decreed that there would be no more smoking in bars.  The bar owners said that this would put them out of business.   But as it turned out, no such thing has happened.  Patrons still patronize the bars.   The fact of the matter, as it turns out, is that the ban on smoking in bars has been a great success.  The bartenders and waitresses are not breathing in second-hand smoke.  I would say that we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Mayor Bloomberg.  Now, if he can do the same thing for the gun problem, he ought to be beatified.

This little essay came about as a result of my astonishment at the prices that are being paid for cigarettes these days.  With the drop in demand for cigarettes at these prices, my guess is that the cigarettes will be stale by the time they finally reach the consumer.  If so, that will be a boon to mankind.  But the fact of the matter is that it would take a much wealthier person than myself to smoke these days.  I am glad – even deliciously glad – that that [sic] period in my life has come to an end and that I am still hobbling around in my version of dancing.



January 30, 2013

Essay 746


Kevin’s commentary: had no idea that Pop was a smoker for so long. I guess I thought it was just a wartime thing. I have a lighter or two of his but I never put two and two together that he was a long-time smoker.  Come to think of it, I don’t actually know if I was the grandson in question in the essay. I’m pretty sure I’m not, but it’s entirely possible that Spooky Suze intervened before I even got to see them.


This essay is about the man who works at a feed store in eastern Kansas. It comes to me from a woman who was born in Olomouc in the Czech Republic.  Since her birth, she has migrated first to England and then to New York.  So you see, there are international implications to this simple essay.

As you can understand, I have to get into the act here.  In July of 1951, my employer, the AT&T Company, decided to offer me a promotion.  The catch was that it would require me to move from St. Louis, my home, to Kansas City.  I argued very slightly with the vice president, who offered me the job, but in the end I took the position.  But if my memory is anywhere near accurate, I believe the pay at the new position was $450 per month.  That is not a princely sum, but in 1951 it was adequate.

I went to a bank which was patronized by my employer and asked for a loan.  It seems to me that everybody who worked at the bank had the title of vice president.  In my case, this vice president looked at my earnings and said that he would reluctantly grant me a mortgage.  And so it was that I bought my first house in a town called Prairie Village, Kansas.  The name of the town is not as formidable as it may seem in that it was only about eight miles from my home to my office in Kansas City.  However, the word prairie in the title of my new home was quite accurate.  My new home was located on what had been a prairie before.

When the residents began to move into this new neighborhood, there were a few inconveniences.  Actually, there were no deli’s, no drug stores, and no A&P Markets, but there was a feed store.  For those of you who are not familiar with feed stores, they sell feed for animals such as horses and dogs.  When I moved into that house, I did not have a horse.   But there was a feed store which offered its services to those who needed feed for cattle and dogs.

I lived in the Prairie Village home for two years, for which I paid $15,000.  When I sold it two years later, I was lucky to get $15,000 in spite of all the improvements I had made.  But that is the way of corporate life in a large company such as AT&T.


Now we shift to the person who told me this story.  Her ancestral home is in the town of Olomouc, which is in the Czech Republic.  She migrated first to England and then to the United States.  The lady who told me this story lost her father in the Holocaust that Adolph Hitler and the Nazis inflicted upon the world and it came to be called World War II.

So as an essay writer, it seemed to me that this incident involving the feed store clerk had an element that must be remembered.  This incident did not take place in my former home of Prairie Village.  It took place in a town very near Prairie Village, Kansas.  The man in question at the feed store was apparently an employee.  He was not the owner of the feed store.  For purposes of reference, he was indeed a black man.  For better or worse, he was the fellow, as many black men were, who did the heavy lifting.  And in a feed store, there was plenty of heavy lifting to do.

As you might imagine, this gentleman at the feed store followed the election of President Barack Obama.  When it came time for Mr. Obama to start his second term in office, the man at the feed store thought it should be recognized.  And as a Democrat who knows a little bit about life in eastern Kansas, I think so too.

As the time drew near for Mr. Obama’s inauguration, the man at the feed store did some inquiries, asking if there were any plans for flags on buildings to commemorate the second term of Mr. Obama.

Now the fact of the matter is that Kansas is a rock-ribbed Republican state and is well on its way toward becoming prehistoric.  The governor of Kansas is Sam Brownback who used to be a senator.  For example, when it comes to abortions, Sam Brownback and the Republican administration are in the vanguard to stamp out any hint of abortions.  It is the intention of the Republican Party under Sam Brownback to take Kansas backwards in time.  Curiously, when I lived in Kansas I did not realize that there was a propensity for going backwards as we progressed.  Remember, this is the state that had a doctor who performed abortions murdered.

Well, to get back to the story, the man at the feed store found that there was no enthusiasm for decorating the buildings in a town in eastern Kansas.  So this clerk at the feed store who does the heavy lifting proceeded to buy American flags that he attached to telephone poles.  Who can say anything negative about the American flag?  But as inauguration day approached on Monday of last week at the feed store, he placed the flags on the telephone poles in this small town in eastern Kansas.

Now if I had returned to this small town in Kansas, I would feel obliged to ask what we were celebrating.  Now remember, this is rock-ribbed Republican territory.  If I were told that the flags were to celebrate the second inauguration of Barack Obama, I would be thrilled and excited.  In this backward-looking section of the United States, it is a phenomenon of the greatest importance to recognize the second inauguration of a Democratic president.  And to make matters a bit more poignant, he is also a black man, as is the case with the clerk at the feed store.

I am certain that the town fathers of this small town in eastern Kansas would be aghast to be asked to pay for the flags.  So the man at the feed store paid for them himself.  And if the town looked more festive on that January day, it must be attributed to the efforts of the man at the feed store.

This is a very small incident in the affairs of the United States of America.  But coming as it was at the inauguration of a black man as president, the efforts by the man at the feed store take on greater significance.  For myself, I am more than happy that the man at the feed store provided the flags to decorate the town.  If I knew him, I would offer to pay for the cost of the flags that he used to decorate the town.  While I cannot pay for the flags, I will tell him through the grapevine that I need to write this essay so that his efforts should not go unrecognized.  If I ever run across this fellow at the feed store, I will make sure as an old Democrat and as a member of the American Army to hug him vigorously.

So that is the story of the man at the feed store.  It gives me great pride as an essayist to recognize someone who takes the bull by the horns and does something.  Mr. Obama will not be eligible to be inaugurated anymore.  But I am certain that the man at the feed store will find other events that need to be celebrated.  And he should know that there are people in far off New Jersey who applaud his efforts.  So it is that this essayist says to the man at the feed store, “Go get ‘em.”



January 30, 2013

Essay 735


Kevin’s commentary: This essay made me smile more than any has for a few weeks. I particularly liked “is well on its way toward becoming prehistoric” as a turn of phrase. I think the main evidence for this claim is that a town there had feed stores but did not have a deli, which is to say that in that town it was easier to get animal feed than it was to get a sandwich. This is roughly how things were long long ago.

Now the obvious question is how Pop came to be acquainted with this Czech woman — hopefully we can get an answer to that soon.

Also, this essay reminds me of just how crazy inflation is. Right now I have to pay about $925 each month to rent a single room in the house of a bitter Chinese man who refuses to turn the heat on in February. It strikes me as very odd that were he to make the same figure today, 1951-Pop would have had to work two full months and spend money on nothing else, just for that privilege.


I am not an obsessive follower of professional football.  The fact of the matter is that there are millions of other people who follow professional football stories with avid interest.  As it turns out, there was a recent development having to do with one of the premier linebackers of recent memory.  His name was Junior Seau (Say-ow).  At the end of his collegiate career, Junior Seau was known for the viciousness of his tackles.  As a result, he was picked number five in the draft by the San Diego Chargers.  My memory is that he played almost all of his career for the Charger organization.

According to sportscasters and newscasters, the most popular spectator sport in the United States is professional football.  It easily beats those who watch Major League Baseball.  I suspect that right behind watching professional football is the watching of collegiate football.

Now as it turns out, millions of youngsters wish to achieve glory and a sense of financial stability by playing football.  This was never a temptation for the author of this essay.  As I have recited before, when American troops went overseas, in my case we landed at the port of Dakar in Senegal.  Shortly after the landing, we were taken to a base about 30 miles north of Dakar called Rufisque.  During our short stay there, a young man among the troops produced a football.  Actually, the fellow who produced the football was obviously going to be the quarterback.  Foolishly, I got into that game.  I was not in the glamour position of halfback or fullback, but rather the man with the football sent me to play a position in the line.  Unfortunately, I was matched against a fellow named Coddington.  Coddington had played professional ball for the Chicago Bears.  And you must remember that in the era of 1942, there was no such thing as defense lineups and offensive lineups.  Coddington and I were matched against each other for the whole one hour of these proceedings.  The fact of the matter is that Coddington outweighed me by at least 50 pounds and rubbed my face in the sands of North Africa for that full hour.  I took that as a sign from Heaven and decided never again to inject myself into a football game.

Well, now back to Junior Seau.  Junior Seau had a spectacular collegiate career playing for the University of Southern California.  He was known – again – as a ferocious tackler.  He began his professional career and spent the bulk of his career playing for the San Diego Chargers.  He was known as a fellow always ready to do what the situation required.  Junior Seau wanted to be in on every play.

He played for the Chargers for many years.  Actually the career of linemen and all pro-football players is about three and a half years.  Junior Seau one way or another stayed in the National Football League for nearly 20 years.  That is a remarkable feat in itself.

The history of Junior Seau is that he was born in 1969 and he died on May 2, 2012.  He died of a gunshot wound to his chest.  It was a self-inflicted wound.

For medical researchers, Seau’s family sent his brain for analysis in an autopsy some time after his death.  Through intensive research, the autopsy people concluded that Junior Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known as CTE.

In his later years, Junior Seau developed dementia.  In short, this young man became an aged man, largely as a result of repeated blows to the head.

Junior Seau was an outstanding athlete before he actually killed himself with a shotgun.  He rendered himself a cripple from repeated blows to the head.

When I was in the high school age group, which lasted from 1936 until July 1940, the helmets were of simple leather that fitted over the head.  In a good number of football games, I have seen high school athletes return from playing games crippled.  It is no wonder at all that Junior Seau, playing almost 20 years in the National Football League plus four years at Southern Cal, developed a series of brain injuries.

There is an overriding point here.  With collegiate and pro-football becoming so popular, it is becoming very attractive to youngsters who wish to make fame and fortune through playing football.  As I mentioned earlier, the average length of time in the National Football League is about three and a half years.  After your three years are over, you take your crippled body and try to make a living.

The sports pages are full of reports about enormous contracts that are signed by professional football players.  The average collegiate football player looks at the amounts paid to professional players and decides that he wishes to have some of that.  Basically speaking, “some of that” may result in crippling injuries or even death.

It simply stands to reason that when large men weighing more than 250 pounds collide, an injury probably will result.  The fact that they wear shoulder pads and knee pads does not alter the fact of the matter that when large men collide at top speed, an injury will probably result.  There is no gainsaying that fact.  When those injuries mount up, a young man becomes a crippled young man.

We are all indebted to the family of Junior Seau, because they donated his brain for an autopsy which may save some future young men.  So on this note I end my tribute to Junior Seau and his family.  But I am sorry that in the end he took his own life.  At this point I must ask whether or not we have progressed from the times of the Colosseum in Rome where men were asked to battle with wild beasts.

Within the next two weeks, the professional football season will terminate.  It will do so in a blaze of glory with a game called the Super Bowl Game.  The Super Bowl game will be played in New Orleans in short order.  It will be played in a million-dollar complex with all of the latest amenities.  Now if you want my view of professional football, it is riding high at the moment.  But in time, medical authorities will tend to submit that playing the game at the collegiate and professional level is not worth the risk.  The President of the United States, Barack Obama, commented in the last day or two that, if he had a son, he might have second thoughts about permitting a son to play football.  The author of this essay agrees completely with the President.  It will take some time, but I would submit that in the end, reason will prevail and the viciousness of football will be curtailed.

This essay has been intended as a tribute to Junior Seau and his family who had the notion that his brain should be inspected in an autopsy.  It is unusual for me to salute professional athletes who are well paid.  In this case, Junior Seau has done us all a favor.  He pointed out that repeated injuries to the brain come at a high price.  So with that thought, I say to the brain of Junior Seau, “Rest in peace.”



January 22, 2013

Essay 734


Kevin’s commentary: I’m publishing this at 12pm of the day of the Super Bowl, which is to start in three hours.  While I too have nearly zero interest in football, I am in the curious situation of caring — just a little bit — about this game. That is to say I live in San Francisco, where one of the teams is from. There is also one of my highschool classmates, who will be playing as the kicker for the Ravens. So I’m closer to this game than I have been to other games, which is unusual.

Junior’s story is tragic and I think highlights the need for better protective equipment in the NFL. But if it were up to me, everyone would just watch Starcraft, where the only injuries routinely incurred are carpal tunnel and that is easily recoverable.




The author of this essay was born in the United States of America.  Accordingly, that makes his native tongue the tongue of English.  Perhaps that should read the American version of the English language.  Nonetheless, the author of this essay has an abiding interest in the twists and turns that the language has taken as it proceeds through history.

There are all kinds of new words coming into the English language.  Some of them are legitimate neologisms.  Others are such atrocities as “disincentivising.”   It is my thought in this small essay to recognize words that have been forgotten as we have moved along.

In 1960, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe composed a musical production on Broadway called “Camelot.”  One of the songs from “Camelot” was called “How to Handle a Woman.”  One of the verses from that song uses a word that has largely been forgotten.  In recalling the history, the song goes on to say, “Before the whole rigamarole began.”  The song is a lovely ballad.  In this case, I am thinking mostly about the fact that “rigamarole” has largely been forgotten in recent years.  Rigamarole has a counterpart point in that there are those who would say, “Whatchamaycallit.”  In any case, Lerner and Loewe aroused my curiosity about other forgotten words.

As a bonus for close readers, here is the first verse of “How to Handle a Woman.”  It goes:

How to handle a woman

“There’s a way,” said the wise old man.

A way known to every woman

Since the whole rigamarole began.”


I include this first verse from “How to Handle a Woman” merely to demonstrate that my intentions are pure.

One of the words that has been forgotten in the English language is the word “nifty.”  Among my peers when I was attending grade school the word “nifty” was often used.  But in recent years, “nifty” has gone the way of “rigamarole.”  It is a decent word that has no obscene characteristics to it.

There is a further word called “disconcerting.”  As far as I am concerned, speakers who use that word tend to be high flown and wish to impress the audience with their knowledge.  You may believe that people who use the word “disconcerting” are not among my favorite people.

Then there is the word “pro-active.”  It was used by a colleague of mine in the telephone business as I clenched my teeth whenever he used it.

But on this Sunday afternoon in the midst of January, I wish to call attention to honorable words such as “nifty” and “rigamarole.”  My friend Sven Lernevall said that English is a “rich language.”  In its richness I hope that we still include such words as “rigamarole” and “nifty.”  And so with those thoughts, I will conclude this little essay on our mother tongue.



January 20, 2013

Essay 733


Kevin’s commentary: While I think nifty is indeed nifty, I find no fault with disconcerting. But this essay is just further evidence that I need to create a Pop dictionary of approved and disapproved words.


The title of this essay might lead some people to assume that in my later years I have succumbed to the teachings and the blathering of Christian preachers.  That clearly is not the case.  It is my intention in this instance to review what might take place if a few or many of us were subjected to the rigors of eternal life.

Let us take my own family for example.  I have reported in several essays that my mother was a snuff chewer.  I regard the chewing of snuff as being more than abominable.  Nonetheless, my mother and her sisters all chewed snuff.  At the same time, they decried the smoking of cigarettes.  But Christianity is full of contradictions such as this one.

To give us a starting point, my mother has been dead since 1961.  If the mathematicians around this house have it right, that would mean that she has been gone more than 52 years.  She was a religious woman and I assume that she is enjoying the benefits that go with eternal life.  By my calculations, my mother consumed at least two tins of Copenhagen Snuff each week. I leave it for the mathematically inclined to figure out how many tins she may have consumed during this short period of her eternal life.  If eternal life lasts for at least 20,000 years, it would be of interest to me as to how many tins of Copenhagen Snuff she would use by the end of her second millennium of eternal life.

When snuff is chewed, it is necessary to expectorate or to spit frequently.  Now, again for the mathematically inclined, how many spits would ensue in 20,000 years with her expectorating snuff chewing in eternal life?  I have not the vaguest notion of how this may be calculated.  I offer the mathematically inclined a chance to show their stuff.

It was my father’s intention to consume one cigar per week.  He picked up this cigar on Sunday afternoon after church and the mid-day meal.  Specifically in our household, the mid-day meal was called dinner, with the meal at the end of the day being called supper.  When I was a very small boy, we used to take the bands on the cigar and wear them for an afternoon or so as rings.  When I go to enjoy my own eternal life, I will have a supply of cigar band rings for my fingers.

Again, using my own family as a measure of eternal life, we must now turn to the oldest sibling who was named Verna.  One way or another, Verna had a penchant for stirring up arguments with her mother and with her other siblings.  Verna has been dead for about 20 years now.  Again for the mathematically inclined, if Verna could stir up a dispute with one of her siblings once a week, how many disputes would occur in 20,000 year of eternal life?

But then there was the fact that one of my older brothers named Earl was a master at settling these disputes.  At the rate of one dispute a week involving Verna, how many disputes could Earl have smoothed over in 20,000 years?  Again, I have no idea of what the total amount might come to, so I will accept whatever is suggested.

Another sibling was a fellow named Charles Haley.  When I left for the Army, he was called Haley; when I returned he was called Charlie.  Charles Haley in later life became very religious.  He attended a variety of churches.  When he became offended by the preachings of one pastor, he would abandon that pastor and move on until he found a new pastor more to his liking.  Now the mathematical question arises as to how many dust ups in 20,000 years would occur that were attributable to my brother Charles Haley’s indignation.

One of my sisters was named Opal.  As I have reported in these essays much earlier, Opal was a free spirit.  Among her accomplishments, she became a waitress at a saloon at the corner of North and South Road and Eager Road run by a fellow Joe Ganolla.  While at the saloon as a waitress, she figured out a way to play chords on a piano.  I believe that one of her favorite numbers was “Flat Foot Floogie with the Floy Floy.”  Poor old Opal has been in Heaven, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, for at least 30 years.

Again, for the mathematically inclined, if Opal performed that sterling aria at least twice each day for 20,000 years, how many performances of “Flat Foot Floogie with a Floy Floy” would she perform?  Again, I have no intention of checking up on the mathematics of my readers and I would not intend to do so under any circumstances.  Somehow or another, it would give me strength to go on living with the knowledge of Opal singing “Flat Foot Floogie with a Floy Floy.”

But now let us turn to the real meaning of eternal life.  John Newton was the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”  Newton was a slave trader for a good number of years until as he says he was involved in a storm at sea.  The boat was awash and he was barely saved.  From that experience, Newton got out of the slave trade business and entered the ministry in the Anglican Church.  I have always wondered about John Newton’s account.  Were there slaves on board in this terrible storm and what happened to them?  Newton has been dead for at least 250 years, so I have no great prospects of an answer from him.

But in any case, John Newton composed “Amazing Grace,” which contains some interesting thoughts about eternal life.  In about the third or fourth verse of that hymn are these words:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright as the morning sun
We will have more days to sing God’s praise
Than when we had first begun.

Clearly I am not a mathematician, which is all to the good.  But this song seems to suggest that eternal life lasts only about 20,000 years.  If eternal life only lasts 20,000 years, it is not, by definition, eternal life at all.  John Newton is dead and we have had no intelligible correspondence with Mr. Newton for 200 years.  Now we have computers of all kinds of descriptions.  Perhaps they could calculate the length of eternal life.  In the calculations that will be made in this essay, I would like to know whether eternal life comes to an end at 20,000 years.  That would be a long time for my sister Opal to sing “Flat Foot Floogie with a Floy Floy” in Joe Ganolla’s saloon.  So you see that my intentions are honorable in that I wish to limit the amount of time that my sister Opal has to sing that song.

I realize that this essay is a dream for those who are mathematically inclined.  Unfortunately I am not one of those with this disposition.  But for those of you who are mind readers and wish to play with numbers, I will be anxious in awaiting the results of your inquiries.  Only I would suggest that those of you who believe in eternal life might wish to reconsider your thoughts on the grounds of great boredom.

For myself, I will continue in my disbelief about religious principles and prejudices.  I will always bear in mind the thought that “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright as the morning sun, We will have more days to sing God’s praise Than when we had first begun.”  It seems to me that 20,000 years of eternal life is about all that any human being could really stand.



January 11, 2013

Essay 731


Kevin’s commentary:

Some rough calculations, for fun:

Tins of snuff = 2x52x20k = 2,080,000

At 1.2 oz of snuff per can, roughly .2 oz per dip, we get about 6 dips per can.  Spitting after each dip means you’d spit roughly 12.5 million times.

Cigars = Disputes = Resolutions = 52x20k = 1,040,000

Pastors = 1.5/year (?) x 20k = 30k

Renditions of “Flat Foot Floogie with the Floy Floy” is 2*365*20k = 14,600,000 (ouch).


The logic on the 20,000 year limit is an issue though because at the end of 10,000 we have MORE days than when we started, so this would indicate that eternity is some figure above 20,000.

But it also suggests that eternity is either growing as some function of time, which is to say that eternity is X years right now, but after 10,000 years eternity will be X+10,000(z) years with z>1. Or Eternity is growing at a rate of time squared or something. It’s silly.

This is a bit counterintuitive. If we just assume eternity is infinite than you will have infinite years left at the 10,000 mark which is equal to the infinite years left that you had at the start, not greater, and if anything less… by 10,000 years.

But all that is moot because eternity in my mind doesn’t make sense because I don’t see how anything plans on persisting past the heat death of the universe which is a few hundred trillion years away.



This is the second case in which I have occasion to refer to pissants.  For those who did not see my earlier description of pissants, it should be remembered that pissants are living creatures.  They exist primarily in rural areas of this country.  They have no eyesight but their hearing apparatus seems to be in good order.  They travel in swarms.  Thus it is that when one pissant makes a discovery of either something to eat or a fresh place to swarm, the whole pissant swarm will soon descend.

My mother, a very religious woman, often used the term pissants to refer to inconsequential politicians whom she abhorred.  If my mother used the term pissant to refer to a politician, you may rest assured that the politician was as inconsequential as could be imagined.  In this essay, I intend to make reference to two politicians of considerable pissantery.  My mother has been gone since 1951 but if she were alive today I am certain that she would applaud the choice of labeling these two politicians as pissants.  The politicians are Lindsey Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina, and Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel.

Let us start with Lindsey Graham.  Most observers of the American political scene will recall that in the early part of 2013, the President  named choices for his new cabinet.  One of the choices that he has made is Chuck Hagel, the former senator from Nebraska who has been proposed as Secretary of Defense.

In personal terms, I have always been a Democrat.  Over the past seven or eight years, I have come to admire Chuck Hagel, who is a Republican.  He is a former soldier in the Vietnam War and I can think of no one more qualified to run the affairs of the Defense Department than Chuck Hagel.  In other words, he has my full approval to run that job.

But now we hear from the eminent pissant from South Carolina.  When Lindsey Graham speaks, it is always in a whiney tone.  In short, Lindsey Graham is a school-teacherish sort of person.

In the instant case, it appears that Chuck Hagel has made some disparaging remarks either about homosexuality or about the ability of Israel to defend itself.  Hagel is a blunt man.  I greatly appreciate his bluntness.  If you could lay out a measurement of Hagel’s bluntness, it would appear on the high end of the scale.  On the other hand, far removed from reality at the low end of the scale would come the whiney notes of Lindsey Graham.

In the current controversy, Lindsey Graham does not have enough manliness to say, “I oppose Chuck Hagel.”  Everyone knows that in the end Hagel will not have Lindsey Graham’s support.  But rather than saying he opposes Hagel, he hides behind descriptions such as, “The remarks Hagel has made in the past are very troublesome to me.”  In other words, it is clear that he intends to vote against Hagel.  He is trying to say to the public that he wishes to give Hagel a fair shake but he is troubled by remarks made at least 14 years in the past.

In personal terms, Graham is a man of 55 years.  He has never been married.  In a recent interview, he insisted that he is not gay.  Very well.  I take him at his word.  But this does not excuse the whiney tone he uses to make his announcements.  Now we are left to wait for the confirmation

hearings and the vote in the Senate that will take place before Chuck Hagel assumes his role as our director of defense.  It will probably be at least two months before the vote is taken confirming Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.  This assumes that he will not say, “To hell with this political business” including dealing with pissants like Lindsey Graham.  But mark me down as a Chuck Hagel supporter.  He may not come from a political party which I have admired, but nonetheless Hagel is a good man and should get the job.

Now that we have dealt with Lindsey Graham, let’s turn to the second pissant, who is the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu is a blustery type who hopes that his listeners are blown away by his command of the English language.  Unlike his predecessors as prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu has had limited military experience.  But that does not keep Netanyahu, the pissant, from criticizing any move he does not approve of in the Middle East.  The Israelis have a lobbying organization in this country called AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).  Like Netanyahu, it is an aggressive organization.

The state of Israel was founded in 1948 during the presidency of Harry Truman.  As I understood it, the state of Israel was founded very much on the lines of the founding of the United States.  It was to offer the Jews and other refugees from the Middle East a place to come home to.  Nothing was ever said that it would be the Jewish state.  It was going to be a democratic state, which would obviously be influenced by Jewish interests.  But now Netanyahu insists that Israel be called the Jewish State.  I believe that if Harry Truman or Yitzhak Rabin were alive today, they would take great exception to Netanyahu calling it the Jewish State.

Now we go on to what I believe is Netanyahu’s pissantery.  The fact of the matter is that Israel exists only because of the backing of the United States.  As evidence of our sponsorship we have given the Israelis about $3 billion annually from the Treasury of this country.  It seems that that does not stop Netanyahu and the AIPAC organization from complaining or whining.  Over the years, I have made perhaps 15 visits to Israel.  The men I have met with in Israel are to be greatly admired.  There is a great contrast between the men I dealt with 25 years ago and the whinings of Benjamin Netanyahu.  When I say Netanyahu, I include his AIPAC organization as well.

The President of the United States has a frosty relationship with Netanyahu.  It is sort of like Lindsey Graham whining that Obama does not treat him as a full-fledged equal.  In the final analysis, I hold that the state of Israel is a good one but clearly under the direction of Netanyahu, it interprets every movement in this country as a slight to Israeli influences.  Netanyahu is an expert in the gathering of these slights.  More than anything else, if the United States does not do very much what Netanyahu wants, he will complain.  In this regard, his complaints are of the nature of the tail wagging the dog.

There you have Lindsey Graham and Benjamin Netanyahu whom this essayist concludes are nothing more than pissants.  I suspect that if Harry Truman were alive today, or my mother, they would truly endorse my labeling of these two men as pissants.  Any proposition that will get the endorsement of Harry Truman and my mother is one that we should all take refuge in.

I am fully aware that my belief in the pissantery of Lindsey Graham and Benjamin Netanyahu will not change their conduct but it pleases me no end to have Lindsey Graham and Benjamin Netanyahu labeled as pissants.  Those two richly deserve such a designation.




January 11, 2013

Essay 730


Kevin’s commentary: I do not actually know too much about Lindsey Graham. But Jen says he spends more time on TV than he does doing his job. She also notes that he seems to be the one who always seems to be interviewed for one thing or another, and that his views tend to be contrary to whoever is interviewing him. I certainly saw enough of the man during the whole Benghazi kerfuffle. So I heartily agree with the pissant designation.

In Netanyahu’s case I am unfortunately even less informed. I will have to study up before I pass judgement but in the interim I will trust Pop’s mother, who to the best of my knowledge was a sound judge of character.



Those of you with prodigious memories may recall that in 2009 there were three essays appearing in this space.  All of them had to do with Ben Bernie, the orchestra leader of the 1930s, 1940s and ‘50s.  When Ben Bernie led his orchestra through a medley of songs, he would often introduce it as “a little bit of thisa and a little bit of thata.”  You may also recall that Ben Bernie, who was a very popular fellow, would indicate approval of his orchestra’s performance by saying, “Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa.”

This essay is a collection of thoughts which probably do not merit a full essay.  The thoughts themselves are meritorious but they do not contain the heft and the significance of a full essay.  But I will try them on you in the hope that at the end you will say, “Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa.”


The first of these individual thoughts has to do with a term that is spoken generally by members of the Air Force.  It is the term, “roger.”  I served in the United States Army Air Force from 1942 to 1945.  Air crews generally use the term “roger.”  But now nearly 70 years later, I thought it would be a good idea to find out what “roger” meant.

Why that term of “roger” is used in the Air Force remains a mystery to me and to others who also flew.  But nonetheless, the term “roger” is meant to say to the speaker, “Your message has been received and understood.”  In the Air Force, messages tended to be terse ones.  There was no gabbing about girls or the insignificance of the commanding officer.  Messages were brief and were acknowledged by using the term “roger.”

There was an occasion when a crew of four of us brought home the oldest aircraft in the European theater.  There was a pilot, a copilot, a radio operator, and myself as the crew chief.  When we finally reached Natal, in Brazil, after the flight over the South Atlantic Ocean, we retired for the night, only to find in the morning that our airplane contained a worn engine to be taken to Akron, Ohio.  But this was war time and we understood those things, so we detoured on our trip.

After we left the engine at Warner Robins Field in Akron, Ohio, we flew southwest to San Antonio, Texas.  The Douglas Corporation had manufactured this airplane and it had delivered super service since 1935.  When we reached San Antonio, there was some confusion in that there were three landing fields nearly back to back.  This was a monument to Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House, who had procured these installations for Texas, his home state.

The pilot was given instructions from the tower to land on, let us say, 22 East.  As we made our final approach, the tower was practically screaming that we were landing at the wrong airport.  Apparently with three airports nearly back to back, this was not an unusual occurrence.  When the pilot received the message, he pulled up the aircraft and we made another turn.  On this occasion we landed at the proper airport.  But Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House, had nearly gotten us into serious trouble.

The point is we were saying “roger” in radio transmissions, but we had misunderstood which field they wanted us to land on.  But in the end we received and understood the message to land at the proper airport.

I am sorry to be so uninformative about the use of the term “roger” but I feel better because I have relieved my soul of this duty to tell the world what “roger” means.  I am unsure as to whether the Air Force still uses “roger” but I suspect that some 70 years later it is still in common usage.


So with that, we will proceed to the next story about thisa and thata.

The second essay has to do with the plethora of names that Americans use to designate their bathrooms.  My very limited research suggests that the word “john” is the leading euphemism for designating the bathroom.  While it is the leading euphemism for designating the bathroom, it has a close competitor in the use of the word “can.”  If I may recall my army experiences of years ago, the use of the word “can” probably exceeded the use of the word “john.”  Those who served in the American Navy will recall that the commode was called the “head.”  I did not serve in the American Navy so I am at a loss to tell you why it is called the “head.”

For some reason the American Army uses the term “latrine” to designate its bathrooms.  Latrine seems to me to be a French word, but nonetheless it is widely understood in the armed forces of the army that  “latrine” is the accepted term, which is blessed by the higher authorities in the American Army that all of us should salute that march off to use the “latrine.”

There was an occasion when I took a director of advertising in the Long Lines Department as well as a vice president of the advertising agency on a trip to Italy and Israel.  The advertising agency was N.W. Ayer.  When it came time for a break in the proceedings, Jake Habberfeld was in charge for the Israeli side of the arrangements.  Jake was the most gentlemanly of all of the contacts that I had overseas.  When Kim Armstrong, the director of advertising for Long Lines, indicated that she was unsure of where to go for this break, Jake Habberfeld stepped into the void.  Jake said, “Would you like directions to that certain place?”  Jake was a gentleman par excellence.  I had never heard the use of “that certain place” for this situation but when Jake Habberfeld used that term, it had my complete acceptance.  And with that thought about the euphemisms for bathrooms, we will then proceed with another matter having to do with thisa and thata.


The next thisa and thata has to do with lovemaking.  My parents were strict conservatives in the matter of lovemaking, which is to say that they never discussed it.  There was one occasion when I suggested to my mother that the word “sparking” had to do with lovemaking.  My mother was born in 1882 but she indicated that the word “sparking” had gone out of style some years ago.  I suppose that the proper replacement for “sparking” would be “necking.”  If any of the readers who have parsed these words can produce a better word than “sparking,” it will be a welcome addition.


At this point, I would like to turn to political matters.  Much has been made of the fact that in his appointments to the cabinet, Mr. Obama seems to have found more white males to name to the cabinet.  I do not believe that every racial group or gender is entitled to be represented in the cabinet.  It is my best view that the best person ought to be named to lead the department.

For some years, it has been assumed that Susan Rice, the Ambassador of the US to the United Nations, would assume the title of Secretary of State once Hillary Clinton retired.  When her name was floated a month or thereabouts ago, Lindsey Graham and John McCain said that she would have a rough time gaining confirmation for the Secretary of State job.  One of the characteristics of Barack Obama is that he backs down and will not fight for his nominees.  The head of the steel workers once said of Mr. Obama that he is “a poet and not a fighter.”  Susan Rice endured about three weeks or a month of speculation and it became clear that Obama did not intend to fight for her.  So she withdrew.  I do not know much about Susan Rice’s qualifications but she comes with a reputation for having sharp elbows.   It strikes me that a person with sharp elbows would not be a bad choice for leading our diplomatic efforts abroad.  While I do not know Susan Rice very well, I regret the fact that her name was floated so prominently and that the President, Mr. Obama, elected not to fight for her.

This may cast a shadow on Chuck Hagel, the man designated by Mr. Obama as his new Secretary of Defense.  Obama backs down to the likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham.  I intend to write to Obama a note praising him for his pusillanimity.


Now we proceed from pusillanimity to falling.  My most recent adventures in falling resulted in no broken bones, for which I am thankful, but did call to mind some 19th century expressions for pain.  Specifically, in trying to get up from this latest fall, my leg became twisted.  For three weeks or so, I had the definition of “all stove up.”  The description of “stove up” was immediately recognizable by my parents’ generation.  It has been many years since I have heard the words “stove up” entering into conversations.  Certainly it is never used by television announcers to describe soreness or discomfort.  So herewith I start a campaign to preserve the words “all stove up” as a national monument to those of us who get our legs twisted and our backs out of line.


Finally it seems to me appropriate to say a few words having to do with wounded animals.  I am well aware of the fact that a good many men cite their skill in hunting as evidence of their masculinity.  But if you will pardon an intercession on behalf of the animals, I would like to say a few words.  Men who go hunting have no real reason to do so because of hunger.   The population in this country is well fed to the point of obesity.  So we are left with the thought that men hunt for “sport.”  This is a one-sided sport where the evidence is all on the side of the hunter.

Let us take Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court Justice, who loves to hunt birds.  I have no use for Antonin Scalia because he intervened in 2000 to give us nothing less than George W. Bush when he decided that the tally count in Florida had gone far enough.  As any person associated with flying will tell you, the take off is the crucial concern when it comes to aerial flight.  Birds who are disturbed tend to flutter and cluster in an effort to gain altitude to run away from the hunter.  It is at this particular moment that Scalia and the rest of the hunters pull the trigger.  If this was a fair fight – which it is not – the birds would have a means of retaliating against the hunters, including Scalia.  The fact of the matter is that the birds are defenseless against the hunter, who has a high-powered shotgun to knock them down and kill them.

In all of the games that we play in this country, there is always a defense and an offense.  Let us take the issue of basketball.  If one of the teams scores a goal, the ball then belongs to the other team to see whether it can score a goal.  In terms of American football, a touchdown is scored and the ball is then awarded to the other team to see whether it can score or not.   In baseball, each team has the opportunity to go on offense when the other team is on defense.  This is the essence of sportsmanship.  When Scalia and all of the other hunters, using their high-powered shotguns or perhaps rifles go to work, it is nothing but a miscarriage of justice.  There is no sport involved here.

I repeat that there is no reason for going hunting to kill innocent animals.  But I am far behind the times and I suggest that hunting seems to be well ingrained in the American spirit of sportsmanship.  In the final analysis, it seems to me that when one side is armed with nothing but cunning and speed and the other side has a high-powered rifle or shotgun, there is no contest whatsoever.  But if you wish to keep score here, mark me down on the side of sparing defenseless animals.

I have never owned a gun.  During the Second World War, the American Army loaned me a gun which had to be returned as soon as my service was curtailed.  Aside from that incident, I have never owned a gun and I never plan to own a gun.  It seems to me that my fellow Americans are distraught at having an administration that does not encourage the use of firepower.


You will notice that in this essay I have said nothing about the tragedy of the killing of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut.  That is a subject for another debate.  At this point I am so distraught that even after a month has passed I have no stomach for addressing the events at Newtown.

There you have a collection of thisas and thatas.  These are in harmony with old Ben Bernie’s orchestra which would play a medley of foxtrots, waltzes or swing ballads or whatever, with the idea that by the end of the medley you would have heard a little bit of everything.  So I leave you with the hope that you will say, in accordance with Ben Bernie, “Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa.”



January 11, 2013

Essay 732


Kevin’s commentary: This one was quite the multi-essay. With so many posts about language especially I feel like I should at some point make a separate dictionary, of words and phrases that Pop has called to special attention in his essays.

The one that really stuck out to me this time was hunting, for a few reasons. I saw a video recently where a guy in Africa hunted an antelope or something by running it down. Turns out humans are really good at distance running, and animals aren’t, so he just chased after this animal for like eight or so hours until it finally had a heat stroke and collapsed. Was crazy to watch… but the reason it comes to mind here is that it was a fair fight. Whoever could run farther would win. It’s about as far from what is now ‘normal’ hunting as is possible, though.